St. Josephs Convent Pinjarra

St Joseph's Convent is the oldest extant residence within the Pinjarra townsite. It has been continually occupied since the 1860's. St Joseph's Convent is associated with the provision of education in Pinjarra.

 

St Joseph's Convent has social value for Roman Catholic residents in Pinjarra.

 

Anthony Cornish was the partner of Nicol Paterson, who established Creaton Estate. At the termination of the partnership in 1866, Cornish briefly moved to Fremantle, but returned to Pinjarra within months.

 

He erected a large home for his family on the banks of the Murray River in the Pinjarra town site, which he named 'Hampstead'.

 

After the death of Cornish's wife, Rebecca, in 1883 from measles, the family estate which included two dwellings, the Port Mill and Freemason's Hotel in Fremantle, and Hampstead- was split amongst the remaining family.

 

The place was sold to Rev. R.W. Alderson, before being purchased back by William Cornish in 1920. When the timber mills in Jarrahdale closed because of the Depression, the small convent there also closed and relocated to Pinjarra in April 1930. Sisters Anthony Little, Gerarda Gallagher and Florentine Byrne came down with eight boarders, an Aboriginal girl called Emma and 'a dog called Fluff'.

 

In 1930 the school hall and presbytery were moved from Jarrahdale at much expense and placed in Forrest Street on land owned by the Church.  It was intended to use the presbytery as a Convent, but when it was re-erected the Sisters refused to accept it, owing to the dampness of the ground.

 

Old School Master's House
The building is now home to the Murray Districts Historical Society

They opened their first Convent in a four-roomed house with verandas in Canon Avenue. (Now the home of the Murray District Historical Society.) where eight boarders lived with them. This house had been a camping place for tramps, so it wasn’t unusual to return from Mass to find one had taken up residence.  They opened a school in the building which previously housed the Government school and is now used as an Anglican hall.

 

In 1931 a Mr. & Mrs. Perrett came to live in the corner house.  They had a child who was deaf and mute, also Mrs. Perrett was a diabetic whom the Sisters administered twice daily injections.  And so, in 1932 for their kindness, the Perrett’s gave them 500 pounds to purchase a bungalow ($400)  and a small cottage (100) in James Street.

 

The Bungalow was used as a Convent
The Josephite Sisters Sr. Anthony Little, Sr. Gerarda Galagher and Sr. Florentine Byrne

St. Joseph's School, James St, Pinjarra - circa 1934
The cottage in James Street was used as a two room school. (Courtesy Sister Florentine Byrnes)
In 1937, during Fr. Ryan’s time , Mr Perrit , a Frenchman , who lived most of his life on a vineyard at Brookdale, on the Dwellingup Rd, purchased the old Cornish property at a cost of 3000 pounds, and handed it over to the Sisters as a Convent.  A contract was let to Bunning Bros for the erection of a building which contained three class rooms on the 16 acres at a cost of 600 pounds. The property had a frontage to Camp Road.  On Suburban Lot 1. he built a presbytery at a cost of 750 pounds.  The facility was officially opened by Dr. Prendiville  in January 1937.

 

The church on Forrest Street was dismantled and re-erected on the corner of the property. In 1954, the place was fitted for electricity, and new classrooms were added the following year. 

 

The Josephite Sisters' Convent
The building is still in use today and was recently renovated for use as a Kindergarten and support classes.

Reminiscences of Lil Adam (nee Bonomi)  and Coral Agar (nee Collette) of their time as boarders at St. Josephs, Pinjarra.   They began school in 1942.

 

The nuns at that time were Sr. Rita, Sr. Bertrand, Sr. Florentine, Sr. Benita, Sr. Gerard, Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Imelda. There were 30 boarders.  These came mainly from Perth as there was a worry that Perth might be bombed because of the trouble from the Japanese in the North West.

 

Pupils attending St. Josephs School 1942
Back row: Lil Bonomi, (unknown), Aileen Little, Pat Newbey. Front Row: Val Butler, Coral Collette, Verna Eascott.

Besides attending school they had their jobs to do such as tending the rose garden, sweeping the verandas, polishing and keeping the chapel dusted which included pews and statues. The Presbytery was an old building in need of repair so was very dusty.

 

Sports were a happy pastime as they had two Basketball sides of which Mrs. Eddy was the coach.  They had a tennis court which the boarders spent many happy hours. 

 

In the garden were fruit trees such as lemons and Pomolo’s. ( like a grapefruit but not so bitter).  Some of the pupils would cut the lemons in half, sprinkle them with salt and eat them.

 

School concerts were organised by Sr. Rita and held in the Mechanics hall.  These were much enjoyed and looked forward to.

 

The RSL organised the Interschool sports Day at the Race Club.  Those participating were from Dwellingup, Holyoake, Waroona, Dandalup, Fairbridge, and Pinjarra.The flood caused some excitement when the water came right up to the Pomolo trees in the back yard of the convent near the river.

 

Students who lived in outlying districts attended the Bushies School at the convent.  This was for two weeks for First Holy communion and Confirmation.

 

Students came from Holyoake, Banksia dale.

 

For a good supply of milk Sr. Brenden would milk the cow which was kept on school property.

 

For a bit of relaxation a walk was organised on Sundays to visit the cemetery.

 

Fr. Cleary was the residing priest who most loved and respected there at that time.  He would have his meals prepared at the convent and spend time talking and listening to the children in their recreational time.

 

Children had to attend Mass every morning at 7am.  In those days the mass was said in Latin. In 1954 the weather board church was moved from Forest street and placed near the convent.

 

In 1954 a three-roomed brick and tile school which was blessed and opened by Archbishop Prendeville.  Fr. Rupert Kelly was the parish priest at that time.

 

1976/77.  The opening of the new school room and block of toilets. The old school was renovated and painted and Blessed and opened by Bishop Healy on the 7th April. 1977.

 

Murray Districts Historical Society • Old Schoolmaster's House, Henry Street • Edenvale Precinct • Pinjarra Western Australia

Phone: 0408 846 567 or 0407 422 771